Puerto Rico
Muelle 6

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2 travelers at this place:

  • Day71

    Puerto Rico

    December 27, 2016 in Puerto Rico ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Tourists, spanish and crazy, crazy drivers.

    We just ticked off the western most point of our sailing route. Unfortunately, that coincides with the leeward most point, which means we have several days upwind sailing ahead, but that be tomorrow's problem!

    We planned this sail for Boxing day but the wind we woke to almost forced us to postpone. We did our due diligence and decided to have a crack. Although it was rough, we had protection from Culebra and some outer reefs and were running a deep angle which, in the end, made for a really enjoyable sail. Felicity's fishing rod hooked us a mackerel in the late stages of the journey which saved us another night on canned chicken. Phew! Fish tacos instead! We're in a little conundrum with our fishing. Two, actually. The first is that we're not marine biologists, and none of us have knowledge of the local fish. Hence, we don't know what's good for eating, what's good size or in general, what the hell we're doing. The second is that reef fish here may have Ciguatera, a food borne toxic disease. The combination of these two is what makes it difficult. The food gods looked upon us once more that day, and put us within reach of google. Confirmation was all we needed. We're making in roads on our marine biology, when we have to. Soon enough we'll be able to leave our good friend google on the mainland.

    We're tucked up in the lee of Isleta Marina. An odd spot, consiting of two small islands connected by a shallow reef. Isleta Marina, as you could guess, is and island with a marina, a very unloved marina at that, and towering apartment blocks for the unintrepid holiday goer. An overwhelming sense of neglect struck us before we even got close. Shipwrecks litter the anchorage, marina and harbour. I'm not talking the Titanic, not even Rainbow Warrior. I'm talking Carlos Sanchez' 15 foot dinghy, or Gomez' 25 ft yacht. In fact there are even sunken boats still in their slip at the marina. Loads of them! I would take a stab and say less than half of the boats in the water here are in a useable state. How sad.

    The issue only got worse ashore on the mainland. Direlect houses, businesses, cars, and infrastructure - the whole town of Fajardo appears tired. Except for the dry stack. Four stories of pristine boats, stacked on the hard and sticking out like a prince amoung plebs. It's obvious maintenance is a struggling aspect of this culture. The marina manager agreed. Noting that often these things were passed through generations, and some younger generations were reluctant to spend money on their inheritance.

    We allowed ourselves on full day in Puerto Rico. Hardly generous but we have a schedule to stick to (believe it or not). Hence when I say 'full', I'm packing that day like Fraser's lunchbox at high school. Speaking of lunchboxes, fuel for the day started with homemade toasted french baguette, fried eggs, beans and sausages, woo! We took our dinghy to the marina and ferried ashore. We met a top bloke on the ferry who offered us a ride to the car rental. We were on our way by 9.30, pretty good considering our starting location. After the first acceleration, first bump and first requirement to brake, I was entirely confident our rental car was not up to the challenge. Warning lights on an a busted dash were the least of our worries, was we dodged potholes, a million lunatics and lanes that end without warning. A very stressful drive.

    Our first stop was El Yunque NP, the only tropical rainforest America. Given that it's not in America, this is, in fact, a useless fact. Nonetheless, it was a rainforest and boy did it rain. This didn't deter the hoards of tourists idling about, obstructing our mission. We're talking, queues for the visitors centre, queues to park, not being able to park at all, single file continuous moving queues on the tracks. On a rainy tuesday in the middle of nowhere, I couldn't believe it. The rainforest itself exceeded expectations but the excursion was marred by the crowds and the rain, which entirely obscured our view from the peak. Anyhow, a leg stretch/workout was well overdue and much appreciated.

    From El Yunque we travelled west to San Juan, stopping only for mexican on the road side. Bloody good mexican.

    With minmial research and even less time, our expectations for San Juan weren't high. But they were blown away. San Juan is the beating heart of Puerto Rico, and it's port delivers life blood to the country. Without it, Puerto Rico wouldn't be.

    Old Town is on San Juan island at the mouth of the harbour, joined to the mainland by a short bridge. Since the 1500s it has been fortified to protect to port of San Juan, Puerto Rico and hence the shipping entrance from Europe to the 'New World'. The significance of this port to trade for the spanish empire can be seen in the size and complexity of the fortifications or 'Castellos' which overlook and protect the port and city. Now a World Heritage Site, the fortifications cover the island from tip to toe, and make a coastal spectacle for visitors; avid sailors and ghastly cruise ship guests alike.

    Inside the towering walls and fortresses is the town on Old San Juan, a cross polenation of Spanish and Caribbean architecture, resembling something one might imagine Cuba to be, cobblestone streets included. Interestingly, and reiterating above, a coastal suburb outside of these walls, hundreds of houses on prime beachfront property were all direlect. Historically being an area for slaves and theives (outside the walls) might have had an influence here. Heavily rennovated and adapted to the foreign crowd, the town inside the walls is stuffed with high end clothing and jewellery shops, arts and craft stalls, the odd pub and restaurant (not as many as we had hoped) and of course, all the american wonders; starbucks, pizza hut, Wendy's. ... you name it! We dined at a local joint, couldn't read the menu, ordered something that resembled unripe banana, got something that looked like a muffin, thoroughly enjoyed it and were on our way in the pouring rain, back to Fajardo. On the way we took advantage of a Walmart and stocked up. We've learnt to love a Walmart, that's for sure. Reversing the morning's commute, we caught the last ferry back and got back to the boat around 11pm. All in a day in Puerto Rico.

    It was disappointing we couldn't make it to Rincon, the surfing capital of Puerto Rico or to Ilsa de Mona for some world class diving. We would have worked these in if our cruising grounds permitted. Another time.

    I'm writing this one from the boat. We're broad reaching in 12kts and blue skies. The boys are in kindle klub, rolling through the books. We've topped off the diesel, gas, and water and have Vieques in our sights. We'll spend the next two nights there before battling back up to St Thomas to collect Cat and Dave. Bring on the New Year!
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